More Freshmen Place Out of Biology in Advanced Standing Exams

The Class of 2012’s performance on the advanced standing exams (ASEs) was markedly different from last year’s as freshman performed better on the biology exams but poorer on the physics exams. And for the second year, results on the newly rewritten Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement exam was used to limit enrollment to the popular 8.012 alternative to 8.01.

Due to space limitations in 8.012, scores on the Math Diagnostic exam were used as a cutoff for enrollment. Sean Robinson, the academic administrator of the physics department, said that the class is always over subscribed and so the department is forced to limit enrollment to 150 students. Some students who were not given a seat in 8.012, but still scored well on the exam, were put on a waitlist in case spots opened.

The chemistry ASE, one of the harder ASEs because of its coverage of topics that extend beyond high school curriculum, again had the lowest passing rate among all the advanced standing exams, as only 7 out of the 100 students who took the exam passed.

Feeling that previous math diagnostics were inadequate, the physics department rewrote the test this year. “Previous results weren’t useful for diagnostic purposes. The new test distributes the results more, making it more into a diagnostic,” said Robinson. This year’s exam tested different concepts that the department believed would be critical to success in 8.012.

In the second year that AP Biology credit is no longer accepted as a substitute for 7.012, 78 students sat for the biology advanced standing exam. The 31 percent passing rate nearly doubled the rates from the past two years. The Department of Biology Educational Administrator Janice Chang said that the exam is rewritten every year to resemble the 7.01x final and that the increased passing rate just reflects that a larger number of students know the material well. Chang attributed increased enrollment in freshman biology courses to this change in the department’s policy.

Robinson said that so far the Physics department has no plans to stop accepting AP Physics C credit since the AP curriculum is a sufficient replacement for 8.01. More freshman took 8.01 and 8.02 ASEs this year, but fewer passed.

Nearly three-quarters of freshman, 73 percent, earned the privilege of registering for any CI-H class either by passing the Freshman Essay Evaluation or by earning a 5 on one of the AP English exams. Twenty-two percent of freshman are required to take a CI-HW class and five percent must take 21F.222.

If incoming freshmen would like to pass out of classes they have taken before, they can sit for advanced standing exams in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Students take the Math Diagnostic to determine Physics class placement and the FEE for writing class placement.